Common dementia drug found to improve Parkinson's symptoms

Parkinson's UK- Scientists have discovered that a commonly prescribed dementia drug could hold the key to helping prevent debilitating falls for people with Parkinson's.

The research, published in The Lancet Neurology, shows people with Parkinson's who were given the oral drug rivastigmine were 45% less likely to fall and were considerably steadier when walking, compared to those on the placebo.

Parkinson's affects approximately seven million people worldwide. Seventy percent of them will fall at least once a year, with over a third experiencing falls repeatedly, resulting in fractures, broken bones and hospital admissions.

Parkinson's UK Research Fellow Dr. Emily Henderson and principal researcher on the study, based at the University of Bristol, says "We already know that rivastigmine works to treat dementia by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical which helps us to concentrate, however our study shows for the first time that it can also improve regularity of walking, speed, and balance. This is a real breakthrough in reducing the risk of falls for people with Parkinson's."

Dr. Henderson and her team studied 130 people with Parkinson's who had fallen in the past year. Half the group were given rivastigmine capsules and the other half a placebo for an eight month period.

Dr. Arthur Roach, Director of Research at Parkinson's UK, which funded the study says "Preventing falls and improving balance is the biggest unmet need for people living with the condition, other than finding a cure."

Dr. Roach says, "This trial shows that there may be drugs already available, being used for other purposes, that can be tested to help treat Parkinson's. This takes us a step closer to improving the quality of life and finding better treatments for people with Parkinson's."

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